For more than a decade, local governments across the U.S. have passed resolutions that aim to control the planting of genetically engineered crops. These successes include dozens of towns in New England and several counties in California where GE crops can no longer be grown.
Humboldt County is the latest community to consider a ban on GE crop plantings. Tomorrow voters will decide whether to pass such a ban through Measure P.
As of last week, the stakes are higher, thanks to a bill passed by the California legislature and signed into law by the governor. The bill, AB 2470, prohibits local governments from enacting new plant or seed regulations without the state’s permission. The bill doesn’t take effect, however, until January 1, whereas Measure P would take effect immediately.
Similar pre-emption bills have been passed in at least 15 states, and are a backdoor strategy by the biotech and chemical industry to beat back local ordinances and state bills that aim to limit the proliferation of their products. Organizers of GE crop bans — and other GE legislation, such as GMO food labeling — introduce these measures to address the serious shortcomings and gaps in current U.S. policy.
Are outright bans at the local level the best approach to regulating GMOs? Probably not. But in absence of a robust regulatory framework governing GE crops — one that involves a holistic analysis of new products in the context of where U.S. agriculture is headed — some communities see these initiatives as the only way to take a precautionary approach to GE products, especially new products that threaten the health and viability of their communities.
Also on the ballot are a number of GMO labeling initiatives. At least 35 bills have been introduced in 20 states. To date, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont have successfully passed state-labeling initiatives. See if your state is poised to join the growing list.